Electricity has the power to make our lives more convenient, comfortable and enjoyable.
But it also has the power to cause great harm. It is critical that we all know how to
take advantage of the benefits electricity offers while avoiding the dangers.
This section is designed to help all our customers—from the youngest to the oldest—learn how to be safe electricity users.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are injured or killed as a result of electrical accidents or problems.
The sad part is, many of these problems could be avoided if we would just take a little more care in how we use our
electrical appliances and how we act around electrical systems and facilities.
Shawn Miller's story about Electrical Safety
The more you know about how electricity works and why it acts the way it does,
the better you'll be able to understand what you need to do to be safe around it.
Electricity is a very powerful form of energy that travels in a path called a circuit.
Under normal conditions, the circuit takes place inside the wires that carry electricity from the power plant to your home and into your electrical appliances.
If nothing happens to interrupt that circuit, everything should be fine. But there are two important things to know about electricity and its circuit.
First, electricity will always try to get to the earth if it can.
So if it can find a way to jump out of the circuit we've set up for it, it will.
Second, electricity is lazy. It wants to take the easiest path it can find to get to the earth.
Some of the easiest things for electricity to travel through are certain types of metal and water.
And guess what? Your body is made up of a lot of water.
So if your body should touch an uninsulated wire carrying an electrical circuit at the same time as you are in contact with the ground
(or with something like a ladder or tree that is touching the ground), the electricity will leave the wire and travel to the ground through you.
And, as it does so, it will give you a shock that could make you tingle, give you nasty burns (inside and out),
or possibly even kill you. There are several ways you can protect yourself from getting electrical shocks or burns.
Electric shocks, electrocution and burns, which cause more than 12,000 injuries a year in the U.S.,
happen when electricity uses your body as a path to its ultimate destination—the ground (see The Electrical Circuit and How It Can Affect You).
As the electricity passes through you, it can do grave harm, burning tissue and
even stopping your heart. And it doesn't take much to do a lot of damage.
In fact, folks have been killed by shocks from as little as 60 milliamps, the amount of electricity it takes to light a Christmas tree bulb.
To help protect yourself and your loved ones from electrical shocks or burns:
1. Never yank, twist or severely bend electrical cords or carry appliances by their cords.
This can cause the appliance wires to fray, which might lead to electrical shocks or burns, as well as fires.
2. Never use an appliance that has a frayed, smashed or broken cord.
(Wrapping a frayed cord with electrical tape might help protect you against being shocked or burned,
but it probably will not prevent the possibility of an electrical fire. See Preventing Electrical Fires.)
3. Never remove the third prong of an electrical plug. This is the ground wire,
which helps protect you against shock should the appliance ever short-circuit.
4. Install GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets in your home or business and use GFCI adapters—especially in bathrooms
and kitchens or other places where electrical appliances might be used near water or in damp conditions. GFCIs can detect imbalances
in the amount of electricity flowing through an appliance (which might indicate some electricity has
"jumped its circuit" and taken an alternate route—possibly through you) and will shut off power to the appliance.
5. Do not touch electrical appliances with wet hands or cleaning rags unless the appliances are unplugged.
6. Keep electrical appliances away from water. Pools, tub surrounds, and counters next to kitchen or bathroom sinks are not
appropriate places for radios, hair dryers, curling irons, toasters, or other plugged-in appliances.
7. Never stick anything into an outlet, except a properly working electrical plug.
8. If you have young children in the home—even as visitors—equip your outlets with child safety
plugs to prevent curious youngsters from sticking their fingers or other items into unused outlet openings.
9. Never stick knives, forks, screwdrivers or other items inside toasters
or other electrical appliances unless the appliances are unplugged.
10. Keep away from outdoor power lines. Many of these lines are uninsulated and any contact with them—either direct or indirect—can be fatal.
When working in the yard, be sure to maintain a safe distance between power lines and ladders, rakes and other long tools.
You do not actually have to touch a power line to be shocked by it. Electricity can jump
(arc) from a nearby wire to you (or to the ladder or tool you are carrying).
11. Do not climb trees that are located near overhead lines (read #10 to see why).
12. Fly kites only in open fields far from overhead lines. If a kite should become entangled
in a power line, call CWLP immediately 217.789.2121. Do not attempt to retrieve it yourself.
13. Before digging in your yard, call JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) at
811 or 800.892.0123 to find out where underground electrical (and other) services are buried.
You need to allow 48 hours for the locations to be marked.
14. Always turn off a tool or appliance before unplugging it.
15. Never enter an electrical substation or tamper with a pad- or pole-mounted transformer.
Many electrical fires start when a combustible (burnable) material comes into contact with a
hot electrical appliance, like a stove burner, portable heater or light bulb.
Electrical fires can also start when combustibles come into contact with frayed or broken electrical cords or when
wires inside the house or inside an electrical cord overheat. Overheating can occur when too many appliances are plugged
into one outlet or one extension cord. The wires inside your home and inside extension cords are designed to carry a certain amount of current.
If you plug in too many appliances, or plug in an appliance that requires more
current than a wire is designed to carry, the wire can overheat and cause a fire.
Here's a list of ways you can help prevent electrical fires:
1. Protect electrical cords from damage by avoiding twisting or severely bending them.
Also, keep cords away from heat sources—such as stoves, light bulbs and open fires—that might damage the cords' insulation.
2. Never use an appliance if its cord insulation is damaged. A fire could start if paper or another combustible material
should come into contact with the exposed wire. (You could also be injured if you
should touch the damaged wire. See Preventing Electrical Shocks and Burns.)
3. Never run electrical cords underneath rugs. They can become frayed from being walked on or might simply overheat.
4. Do not plug too many appliances into one outlet or extension cord.
5. If you are having a problem with blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers, find out why.
These are indications that you have an overloaded circuit and might be at risk for an electrical fire.
6. Never replace a blown fuse with one of a higher amperage rating. Your circuits are designed
to handle a specific amount of current. Increasing a fuse amperage in an attempt to
increase the load a circuit will carry is a guaranteed ticket to disaster.
Never ever use a penny or other metal object as a replacement for a fuse.
7. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is designed to carry as much current as the appliance needs.
Appliances that draw a lot of power need a heavy gauge extension cord.
8. When operating outdoor electrical appliances or equipment,
be sure to use extension cords that are rated for outdoor use.
9. Keep curtains, towels, furniture, paper and other combustible materials away from electrical appliances—including
stoves, ovens, toasters, portable heaters and light bulbs—that generate a lot of heat.
10. Keep electrical equipment and tools in good, clean condition. Oil and dirt buildup can cause equipment to overheat.
CWLP offers an electrical safety program to Springfield's elementary and middle schools.
The PowerTown Safety Program combines video and live presentations to educate children in grades K-8 about electrical safety.
The program, which is also available to youth-oriented organizations (such as Summer Scope and other summer day care programs),
lasts approximately 45 minutes and can be CWLP PowerTown logo.presented to individual classes or school assemblies.
Teachers or school/program administrators interested in scheduling an Electrical Safety Program should call the program
coordinator at 217.757.8520 ext.2209, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electrical Safety Children's Games